Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Failures to Opportunities

I wanted to expand on something from my last post a little more.  The opportunity that we give to our children.  Parents of children who have special needs often times find them in a place fighting for the same things "normal" children are given.  This makes me so sad.  My day, most often, is spent on the phone or filling out some kind of paper work to ensure that my daughter has the same opportunity as everyone else in this house.  It makes me sad, especially when I hear that we are an equal opportunity country.  We have a long road to travel to get to the same playing ground for everyone.

Lydia will be a test subject in our school district (if we should stay).  They do not have early childhood education.  So, even at age two, it has been a battle to make sure things will properly be in place or at least people thinking about her transition into the school district when the time has come.  I have not had to do that with any of my other children.  See, the classrooms are set up for what they deem as "normal" and if you differ from that, there is a struggle.  Good or bad, it really does not matter, there should not be one.  She should be welcomed with open arms, just as everyone else is.  She should be given the same opportunity as Ellen and Allison are.  But it is my job to make sure that happens.

I will fight (I use this world loosely...meaning I will make sure) that all my children get every opportunity in life.  And I think that parents of special need children are looked at differently because there is not the same opportunity.  See, I don't want that label put on my child.  She can do whatever God intends her to do.  NO ONE can predetermine that.  If we label her, most likely, she will only rise to that label.  However, if we give her every opportunity, she will most likely rise way above that.  Ellen and Allison never had a label put on them.  I can ensure if you, if they did, they would only be at that level also.  As a society we are doing a HUGE dis-service to these children and to ourselves.  You see, we too miss out on the blessing of what every child has to bring to the table.  They can teach us things too if we only open our minds.

I get a bit frustrated and annoyed by this.  I don't understand why we always have to focus on their inabilities.  I have to say our therapy team has taught me a lot about that.  She can't do this, OK, she does this really well.  So we work on what she can do well and the other things follow.  Lydia then is not frustrated because she cannot do the things we are telling her to do.  She is only going to do the things she knows to do, the things she wants to do (she is very determined and stubborn and she knows what she wants to do!).  Who am I to come in and tell her to do something different?  I never told Ellen and Allison what to do, they just learned in on their own.  Eventually it came.

Sorry, I was getting a little off topic, but it really bothers me.  I do think that from every failure we have, there is an opportunity.  I have used this as a lesson several times with Ellen and Allison.  I do be believe they are better because of it.  They ask why I am on the phone so much, why there is so much paperwork, why this and why that.  I am open with them and I talk to them about it.

I have overheard Ellen talking to her peers about Lydia when they ask questions.  She talks and communicates better than most adults.  You see, Lydia is not different to her, it is just how she was created.  Ellen sees no difference in that.  She is able to talk to them about how she helps her sister out and how many lessons her sister has taught her.  She has told her peers that Lydia is no different than her, she just learns at a different pace.

When Lydia gained weight yesterday, Ellen simply said, I had a part in that.  Yes, yes, she did.  She helps feed Lydia and she is involved in pretty much every aspect of her life.  I think it is wonderful to involve the kids and really make them understand.

I can do that with my parenting to the other girls also.  I fail so many times.  We talk about it and we pray about it.  We talk about the sins mommy needs to work on and the sins the girls need to work on.  We pray together and we read the Bible.  We hold one another accountable for our actions.  We speak the truth in love.  Lydia has helped our family to do this by being who she is, by opening our eyes to a world that we were blind to.

We are not perfect people, never will be.  But you see the beauty is that from every failure there is an opportunity.  From every situation of hurt and grief, heartache and sorrow we have a choice to let it weigh us down or be an opportunity for us.  It is up to us.

Many people said that Lydia is a failure, was a mistake.  I say you are wrong, but there is an opportunity in her.  I would have to say that she has definitely lived up to that.  She has impacted lives, she has changed me, she has made her sisters better people, she has brought joy to other people's lives.  She is an inspiration.  She is just the opportunity that our family needed.

I have to say that this post went a lot different in my head, but hopefully you get my point.  Even from our messed up society there is a huge opportunity, a huge learning curve.  I am blessed to be part of that.  Hopefully along the way Lydia and our family can make an impact somewhere.  We can teach others some of the lessons we have learned.  We can teach others about their opportunities from failures (and on a side note, never once did I think Lydia was a mistake, but I know that others in society think that).  If we are not learning we are not growing and we are not improving ourselves.  We are but clay in the Potter's Hand, learning to be shaped and molded according to His plan.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Legacy

When I set out on the road to motherhood, I am not sure what I expected.  I wanted a child, my husband and I both.  We shared in many of the ideas of how to raise a child.  We were excited.  But I don't think that it was until Lydia came along that I really discovered what my motherhood experience really meant to me.

With Ellen much of my focus was trying to survive.  She was the first, everything was perfect.  She was involved in a lot, she was sheltered and she pretty much got everything I thought was right for her.  I was in love, I was full of bliss.  However, I was without direction.  I was longing for her to have lots of friends, to have the perfect toys, the most of everything that did not matter.

Allison came along 19 short months later.  Life was challenging.  On maternity leave I knew I wanted to stay at home with her.  I just knew that my children longed to have me in their lives all of the time and they deserved it.  During my maternity leave God heard my cry and I was laid off from my job.  I did start part-time at our church almost immediately.  But I felt like this was good.  We still had enough money to give them all of the necessities and I was mostly focused on them.  I felt like I had a little more direction.  We discussed faith but I was still focusing on things of this world to make us happy.

We tried for a while to have Lydia.  We were just about ready to accept that God had made our family perfect at four when the test (our last one and I said I was buying no more) was positive.  We were so happy.  At 20 weeks there was a possibility our child would have Down syndrome.   This was really "new" to our vocabulary.  While we knew people who had children with Down syndrome, and friends who also carried an extra 21st Chromosome, it was new to us.  It challenged me to really soul search of what it meant to be a mom and to love beyond myself.  After a day or so of living with that possibility we were again elated with this new possibility.

I remember praying on my "prayer bike" (a term my ladies Bible study friends gave to me because I prated out loud while I biked), Lord please let Your Will be done.  If this baby has Down syndrome, give me the strength and the wisdom.  I also prayed for a healthy baby.  My love for our Lord grew each passing day while I awaited this special gift to be born.  My faith strengthened and I did not even realize what was happening.  God was preparing me.

Again, at 34 weeks another new reality set in.  Not only would we be having a child who would carry a little something extra, but there were several complications.  I found out that there was a heart defect with our sweet Lydia and other complications that would go undiagnosed until she was born.  Now I really had to do some soul searching and figure out how I was going to love this child.  No amount of money or stuff could change this situation.  However, faith could; however, God is the ultimate healer and He could give me rest when no one else could.

At that point, 34 weeks pregnant I knew that the journey I was now on was going to change me forever, it was going to change me as a mom.  The stuff became less important and reading books to the girls and watching them play and interact became super important.  Working and making a buck was something of a distant memory.  Keeping myself healthy to give Lydia everything she could have was the most important thing possible.

At that moment the legacy that I leave behind (my children) was the most important thing in the world.  If we had to live in our car, if we had everything stripped of us; it made no difference.  As long as I was with my children, as long as we had our faith, as long as we placed our lives at Jesus' feet, everything would be OK.  I am not sure how, but it would be OK.

The next moments, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months I would rely fully on God to get me through.  He would show me the way and give me the strength to get through some of the hardest days of my life.  He would show me why it is important to be a mom and what the meaning of life is.  The stuff became trivial as time with my children, my husband, my family became the most important thing to me.  Making sure that my children had a deep love for the Lord.  Making sure that my children were obedient and had manners.  Making sure my children understood what respect was and most of all making sure my children saw an example of love, self-less serving love.  The kind where you put others before yourself no matter what.

I give thanks to God for giving me Lydia.  She saved me.  She showed me the importance of being a mom.  She taught me one of life's best  She taught me love and sacrifice.  She taught me the value of just being yourself and fighting with everything you have inside of yourself.  She taught me why I am a mom and how important that legacy is to leave behind.

You see, just by being her, she will have taught her entire family (and those around her) how to love with your whole heart, how to see things black and white, how to be so determined you prove all of the people wrong, how to break through stereo types, how to break down barriers, how to forgive, how to find joy in everything, and how to cease EVERY moment and make it the most special thing.  And she does not have to do anything other than being herself.

I am blessed that I had an amazing mom who gave me this same legacy.  She gave me foundational cornerstones that I was able to build my life by.  She gave me unconditional love, support, forgiveness.  Things were not perfect, but she understood what it was to be a mom and why God had called her to be a mom.  She gave her all to her children.  I am so proud to be called her daughter and I love her so much.  I am not very good at saying that, but I believe that she is one of the most incredible moms.  She continues to show that every single day.  She, without question, left everything at home to come stay with us at the Ronald McDonald's House to, in essence, raise my other children.  She did it with grace and beauty.  Thank you mom.

I have also had the privilege to see my sisters raise beautiful families.  I long to be closer to them, but often times I am better at shutting people out than letting them in.  They parent with such a gentle, caring, giving heart.  I am so proud of them and proud to be an auntie of two beautiful nieces and three handsome nephews.  I am blessed to be walking in this journey of motherhood with them.  I am honored to learn from some great moms.  Thank you for being a wonderful influence on me.

As we celebrate Mother's Day this year, I realize how many wonderful mother's God has placed in my life that I may learn from.  That I may continue to reach towards that goal of leaving a lasting legacy.

The other day someone told me that I was so special because God chose me to be Lydia's mom.  While those compliments are good to hear, I have to say that I am no more special that the next mom.  While I know that this is not always the case, I would like to believe that any mom would do anything for their child; no matter what it takes.  Each one of my children require a different type of parenting and no one will ever know what it is like to raise Allison, Ellen or Lydia besides me and my husband (well all of the other communities that it takes to raise a child, but you get my point!).  This is our journey and I vow to continue to do what it takes to raise my child, to give them every opportunity, and to give them a foundation of God, values, respect, and manners.  Motherhood is a gift and one that should not be taken lightly.  We need to honor that gift and give it our all, after all; every single child deserves that.

I once thought that giving my children stuff and money and things would make good children.  Now I know that giving them the opportunities, those foundational cornerstones of a lasting faith, respect, manners, discipline are the best things that I can do for them.  By pouring my all into my children I am richly blessed beyond any earthly treasure.  I thank God for each of my children, but especially for Lydia because she is the one that caused me to realize my purpose.